Hamilton is blessed with some of the region’s prettiest hikes thanks to the Niagara Escarpment that cuts through the city, giving us endless forested trails, hidden waterfalls and an impressive designation as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
And fall is arguably the best time to take it all in.
Plan a day trip close to home around these first-rate fall routes framed in red, gold and orange (paired with the perfect spots nearby to fuel up post-hike).
1. Smokey Hollow
You’re rewarded for your hike here with the popular Smokey Hollow waterfall, set in a leafy forest setting that flows from Grindstone Creek in the historic village of Waterdown.
The rugged footpath tracing its way up and down the ravine formed by the Niagara escarpment is a popular but still peaceful hiking trail and especially beautiful in the fall.
- Reward yourself with a fine dining meal post hike at elegant Italian eatery Kamoosh Bistro
- Or go for an authentic pub experience at the historic Royal Coachman Pub.
- Rest your feet and treat your palette at nearby West Avenue Cider House with a flight of cider and cheese plate overlooking their picture-perfect orchards.
2. The Chedoke Radial Trail
For a scenic, gradual ascent up the Niagara Escarpment, visit this 2.7 kilometre section of the Bruce Trail connecting lower west Hamilton to the top of the city’s escarpment. Through the forest as you walk, you’ll catch breathtaking views of the city.
The Chedoke Stairs, accessible from the golf course parking lot, provide a 289-step cardio challenge up to a viewing platform for prime leaf viewing. Join the many locals in the know for this fun workout with a breathtaking reward.
- Tuck into some upscale comfort food in the popular Aberdeen Tavern set in an old, converted bank with a stellar menu and vintage inspired cocktail bar.
- Grab some amazing from-scratch baked goods and hot beverages to go from one of Hamilton’s favourite bakeries Cake & Loaf.
- Nearby Locke Street is packed with delicious dining options including Earth to Table Bread Bar specializing in good, wholesome ingredients and Burnt Tongue with an-ever changing soup menu, perfect for a crisp fall day.
3. Eramosa Karst
Looking for a one-of-a-kind hiking experience? Eramosa Karst offers truly unique features like underground caves and streams, which are fascinating to explore as you follow the seven kilometres of trails surrounding this conservation area.
The East Mountain area is even designated as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest in 2003 because of the number of karst features, like sinking systems, dry valleys and the tenth longest cave in Ontario.
- Warm up with some Italian comfort food at nearby classic Italian eatery Valentino’s Restaurant.
- Raise a glass to the season at Cause & Effect Kitchen & Bar where daily specials include $1 oysters and half price bottles of wine.
4. The Dundas Valley
This sprawling conservation area in Dundas includes 40 kilometres of breathtaking trails and some of the best fall colour views in the region – well worth a day trip (or several).
There are several days worth of spectacular fall hiking through the area’s three major trails: Main Loop, Bruce Trail and Brantford Rail Trail.
Highlights of this 1,200 hectare conservation area include a lush Carolinian forest, colourful meadows. cold water streams, and rare plants, birds and wildlife.
Must-visit stops include the replica Victorian train station and antique train car and The Hermitage, home to the stone ruins of a once lavish 19th century estate of wealthy Scottish immigrants.
- The historic village of Dundas offers plenty of dine-in and take-out options perfect for a fall picnic.
- Pick up fresh produce, meat, cheese, and prepped sandwiches and salads from Cumbrae’s butcher shop or Picone Fine Food (both Dundas institutions).
- For a unique dining experience, visit Shy’s Place, located in a sprawling heritage home (with a patio) and specializing in comfort food classics with a twist (think pesto grilled cheese and buttermilk chicken parm).
5. Cootes Paradise
Canada’s largest botanical garden Royal Botanical Gardens features is home to much more than flower gardens.
It also boasts stunning trails including Cootes Paradise established for its significance as a migratory bird stopover. The diverse nature sanctuary features a huge river mouth marsh and 25 kilometres of shoreline.
Taking Bull’s Point Trail to The March Walk will lead you down to Cootes Paradise Marsh, where bald eagles usually build their nests each year. From the viewing platform, you can see views of Sassafras and Princess Point (two other great hiking areas) on the other side.
- Neighbouring Westdale is full of stops to fuel up before or after your hike.
- Bean Bar has been a neighbourhood go-to for 25 years. Make sure you leave room for dessert – they’ve got the city’s biggest selection of cakes.
- Feed your sweet tooth and get your caffeine fix at Weil’s Bakery, Paisley Coffeehouse & Eatery and Walker’s Chocolates. Go ahead, you’ve earned it!.
6. Dundas Peak
The view overlooking Dundas Valley from Hamiltons famous Dundas Peak is stunning year-round, but during the fall it’s truly breathtaking. The hike up to the famous lookout reveals endless, fire-like foliage in all its multi-coloured splendour.
New for 2020! Due to the area’s overwhelming popularity and new distancing rules, all visitors to Spencer Gorge Conservation Area (which includes Dundas Peak, Tew Falls and Webster Falls) will need to make a reservation online prior to visiting from September 19 to November 15, 2020. Reservations are for two-hour blocks starting at 9:00 am, 12:00pm and 3:00pm. Reserve at least a day in advance to avoid disappointment.
No walk-up or drive-up entry will be admitted without advance reservation with strict parking enforcement in place for surrounding neighbourhoods.
- Stop into picture perfect Detour Cafe in downtown Dundas post hike for a perfect cup of coffee as well as a great pastry and lunch menu.
- For an unforgettable fine dining meal, book a table at the nationally acclaimed, Quatrefoil Restaurant, specializing in contemporary French cuisine and housed in a historic home in Dundas.
- Find more great dining options with our guide to Dundas.